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Switzerland says will begin talks with EU on sharing bank data soon

People walk past the building of the bank Safra next to the Paradeplatz square with the Swiss Banks Credit Suisse (back C) and UBS (L) in Zurich, April 12, 2013. Picture taken April 12, 2013. REUTERS/Michael Buholzer

ZURICH (Reuters) - Switzerland will begin negotiations soon with the European Union and some other countries on automatically sharing data on Swiss bank accounts held by foreigners, the government said on Wednesday.

It could start exchanging data in 2018 at the earliest, once an international standard is in place and pending parliamentary and even voter approval.

Switzerland, the world's biggest offshore financial center with more than $2 trillion in assets under management, has come under huge pressure from the European Union and the United States to end bank secrecy as cash-strapped countries clamp down on tax evasion.

Under automatic information exchange, if an individual opens a bank account in a foreign country, the tax authority in the person's country of origin will automatically be informed.

In May, Switzerland agreed to join other countries in sharing tax information once this is established as a global standard, effectively signaling an end to Swiss banking secrecy.

"Negotiations with partner states should commence shortly," the government said in a statement on Wednesday, but gave no indication of how soon that might be.

"The first exchange of information could take place in 2018, subject to parliament and possibly voters approving the necessary laws and agreements in good time," it said.

The government did not name the non-EU countries with which it will negotiate on automatic exchanging data.

(Reporting by Alice Baghdjian; Editing by Susan Fenton)